LOOK FOR KEY AREAS THAT CAN ABSORB SOUND
Surfaces which absorb sound, particularly in the ceiling
(since it serves as a reflector), diminish the strength of the
sound from the sender as it travels across the path to the
receiver. Walls and floors are also potential sound absorbers.
With reflective floor finishes, such as marble, footfall can be
especially annoying to workers.
INADEQUATELY BLOCKING CAN WORSEN SOUND ISSUES
This is the typical way that high workstation partitions are
arranged and it illustrates why this arrangement is doubly
ineffective: 1) Sound, being like water, leaks into the
receivers’ work area and 2) the sender cannot visually
gauge the effect of their voice level on coworkers who are
not in their line of sight.
THE DIFFICULT ART OF BLOCKING SOUND
The strategy illustrated is very effective, but very expensive.
It requires that the ceiling be interrupted, requiring significant
labor since the partition continues to the structure above the
ceiling. Where the partition only stops at the ceiling, which is
typical commercial office construction, the blocking action is
not nearly as effective due to sound leaks at the ceiling plane.
TECHNICAL TIPS FOR PHYSICAL ACOUSTICS
SUMMARY OF SOUND MITIGATION STRATEGIES
THE RECEIVER IS AT THE MERCY OF THE SENDER
But when the sender can see the receiver (and interpret their
body language) the sender will typically modulate their voices.
In a 24,000-subject survey by the Center for the Built Environment (CBE), people who could see each other were the
most satisfied workers in terms of acoustic comfort. The CBE
researchers hypothesized that greater voice modulation was
the result of greater visibility of others in the environment.
COVERING THE SOUND OF SILENCE
Another important strategy available for the open
workplace is to supply additional sound, either through
“white noise” or background noise such as mechanical
equipment, which counteracts the typical quietness of a
modern, open workspace. Masking helps to cancel the
sound disturbance emanating from the sender.